What To Wear To The Vatican – The Vatican City Dress Code Rules You Need To Know!

The Vatican is the smallest country in the world, and for that reason alone has been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for decades. I’m not religious but I can see the appeal of visiting a country inside a country and marvelling at some of the most famous architecture and artwork in the world.

However, it’s often not the architecture, nor the artwork, nor how it feels to be in a country inside another country that people ask about when they find out we’ve been to the Vatican. Instead, it’s “What should you wear?” or “What can you wear?”.

Being a religious site, you should aim to wear (and avoid wearing) the following during a trip to the Vatican;

  • T-shirt with short or long sleeves (avoid vest tops)
  • Trousers, shorts or long skirts (avoid shorter than the knee)
  • Scarves (avoid hats)
  • Walking shoes or comfortable trainers (avoid flipflops and high-heels)

Dress codes always make me nervous.

What if I’m not doing it right?

Is everyone going to look at me because I’m wearing the wrong outfit?

We made this Vatican dress code information as informative and in-depth as possible to avoid this problem and to allow you to visit this incredible country without worry or fear.

The Vatican Dress Code

While there is no official dress code there are some items of clothing and outfits styles that are unfortunately not accepted. These are mostly due to shoulders and knees on show.

As the Vatican is a Holy site in the Catholic religion and so it is key to respect that. These rules apply to both men and women.

young woman standing in front of the fountain and columns in Vatican City

Items of clothing that not accepted in the Vatican are:

  • Mini Shirts/ Short Skirts
  • Shorts above the knee
  • Lowcut clothing
  • Hats
  • Sleeveless garments

What To Wear To The Vatican

Again we want to remember that the Vatican is a religious site and is worshipped as such with many people all over the world. This to me is like going to temples in Thailand and covering my legs and shoulders. The principle is the same, so here are some ideas on what to wear to the Vatican.

If you are planning your outfits for this beautiful trip away to Italy but want to visit the Vatican you may just want to include something modest to wear. This doesn’t have to mean you go out and buy something new it can just be adapting something you have in your suitcase already.

Summer is the hardest time to work out what to wear to the Vatican as it is hot, sticky and sweaty. There are a number of ways you can dress appropriately without overheating.

The most important part of deciding what to wear to the Vatican is remembering that both the shoulders and knees should be covered. No hats, they can be removed as you enter the Vatican and stored in a bag.

Dressing for winter is much easier as you will most likely be in layers and quite covered up, but if you are still looking for guidance on what to wear to the Vatican in winter we have you covered.

Dresses & Jumpsuits

Working out what to wear to the Vatican can be so much harder for women than men. However, it doesn’t have to be. There’s a lot of tips and tricks that can have you looking and feeling good while also being respectful.

Remember that you are more than likely going to want to be comfortable walking around and cool in the summer sun, here are my helpful ways to dress appropriately for the Vatican.

Top Tip: Also if you feel your chest is a little on show you can add on a light scarf to cover, repurpose it for the rest of the day outside the Vatican as a headscarf.

Dresses are going to be a popular choice for women on holiday in general, even much so in such a romantic place like Italy. Deciding what to wear to the Vatican can be simple and easy once you know what your restrictions are.

Go for a short sleeve dress that flows past the knees. If you only have strapless or strappy dresses look at adding on a small shawl or cardigan over the shoulders to create that modesty.

Also, jumpsuits are a great way to wear something comfortable but also modest. I love the variation and styles of outfits you can create with jumpsuits. They come in great fabrics both stretchy and loose fitting cottons which are both so easy to wear in summer heat.

You can also layer them up with a top in the chillier days or add a scarf to cover your chest. I like that you can pair them with either trainers or sandals and they look good for the daytime and evening.

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T-shirts & Blouses

Anything that covers the shoulders isn’t see-through or sheer is deemed as appropriate. You can easily team up a basic tee with a pair of long-length shorts, flowing skirt or under a dress to give your shoulders the overage it needed.

Blouses are also a great way of creating modesty and looking pretty cute and smart. There are so many lovely blouses that can give your shoulders the coverage they need along with being quite cooling on a hot day.

Alternatively, pair up a pashmina with your favourite blouse to give you the best coverage over your shoulders and chest.

When packing your bag for a winter trip to the Vatican look at packing some added layers. I like adding a shirt over a t-shirt or a jumper over a vest. I like to have a base layer so if I get too warm I can take off my jumper or shirt.

You can make your base layer anything you like and add on top of that. Thin woolly jumpers are great for building up layers as they aren’t too thick and you can still feel like you have full movement of your arms.

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Linen trousers are a great summer choice for city holidays in general. Even better for visiting religious sites and monuments. There are other loose trouser styles that are popular that would help keep you cool and modest on your trip.

You can find a number of thin materials and jersey style trousers that suit many shapes and are great for heat and city exploring.

When looking for what to wear to the Vatican in winter simply trade out the linens for thicker fabrics such as denim. Look at swapping out the thinner fabrics for more comforting and warmer fabrics.

Women could wear tights under dresses and skirts or leggings to add a little more coverage from the winter breeze.

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Shorts & Skirts

I honestly only own short shorts and no skirts so I would have to find an alternative for this category. If like me you only travel with short shorts then look at creating a skirt with a shawl to go over the top.

You can even pick a longer length skirt to wear while exploring the Vatican. If not you can find some really nice chino style trousers, linen trousers or even loose jersey trousers to wear for the day.

If you are packing ahead of your trip and came across this article for help then if you are interested in wearing shorts or skirts there are so many options out there. As long as the shorts/skirt aren’t sheer or above the knee, you will be able to wear it while exploring the Vatican.

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Jackets & Cardigan

If like me your dresses and tops are sleeveless you can choose to use a shawl, jacket or cardigan style to cover your shoulders.

This can just be during your visit to the Vatican, alternatively, you can use a pashmina or scarf to cover your chest and shoulders during a visit in the summer months.

Also, while exploring the museum at The Vatican you may feel a slight chill, this will be due to the temperature controls making sure the paintings and artwork stay at a certain temperature.

When packing your bag and deciding what to wear to the Vatican you can dress as you would for every other day of your vacation.

If you are looking at what you should wear during your trip in Winter, the same rules apply though you may want to look at swapping a cardigan for a coat or waterproof jacket.

Temperatures in Rome drop as low as 3 degrees and highs of 14 degrees. Clothing such as warm winter coats, fleece jackets with an added layer of a waterproof jacket and windbreakers are perfect for winter at the Vatican.

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Footwear For Women

Footwear is one of the most important for me, as you will no doubt be doing a full day of exploring the Vatican and the rest of Rome you will want comfortable footwear.

Trainers, pumps and sports shoes are always highly recommended due to the level of comfort and stability they provide.

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If you are looking for a stylish sandal to go with a nice dress or jumpsuit I would suggest Merrell walking sandals or Birkenstocks.

I would suggest finding a sandal that has a good thick base and moulds around the foot, that way you can have optimum support around your ankle and leg.

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Shirts & T-shirt For Men

Men are a little simpler to plan for as the options in clothing aren’t as broad. There is still the challenge of finding clothing that is going to be cooling in the Italian heat.

T-shirts are a straight forward choice for many and still a great option when choosing what to wear to the Vatican. Remember not to pick anything too thick in the summer months as you will overheat. Go for pure cotton blends as they will be kinder to the skin in the heat.

Shirts are a great alternative as they are generally pure cotton and easy to wear in the heat. These can also be a great autumn/winter option but in long sleeved. Remember the shirt needs to cover the shoulders to pass into the regulations to get into the museums and St Peters Basilica.

If you are looking for options for winter look at adding layers to your wardrobe, such as wooly jumpers and pullovers. That way you can take off a layer if you get too warm within the buildings.

Jumpers & Jackets

A great way of keeping warm in the winter months is buy adding layers. You can use a t-shirt as a base and add on a thin jumper or shirt to create warmer layers.

Be sure to check the weather before your visit so you can make sure you are prepared. Take a warm jacket such as a coat or a waterproof layer incase of rain and snow.

The better prepared for the weather the better trip you can have and enjoy yourself. Pack a macs are a great way of being prepared for rain without having to carry around a big coat. These are super easy to pack into a bag and stash away in a backpack.

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Shorts & Trousers For Men

There aren’t many shorts that go over the knee for men and unfortunately are hard to find. If you have a pair that do go over the knee that is great as they aren’t something that is common.

If you don’t have any shorts that are appropriate then you can turn to trousers but this doesn’t mean you have to sweat in the heat all day. You can find great thin and easy to wear trousers for summer.

Linen blends, sports trousers that have the zip of legs are great and khaki styles. These will be easy to wear, cooling in the summer heat and look good on your holiday pictures.

You can even find trousers such as chinos that are light in colour and work well in mid-heat climates. If you are visiting in the height of summer I would look for some longer length shorts or wear linen style trousers as these will be the most comfortable for the heat.

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Footwear For Men

Though there is no actual ban on any types of footwear I would suggest wearing trainers or pump-style shoes.

Though flip flops may feel like a great option remember you will probably be doing a lot of walking so you want to be comfortable.

I would recommend wearing trainers as they are the most comfortable. Alternatively, you can wear shoes such as Merrell or sketchers as they are both great brands of footwear.

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Buy Here: Sketcher’s Men’s Stamina Cutback

Sandals such as Merrell or Birkenstocks are better suited to long days walking around, especially when walking on cobbled streets around the city. Both of these brands made thick sole, supportive footwear perfect for city exploring.

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Buy Here: Merrell Men Choprock Hiking Sandal

That is everything on what to wear to the Vatican. I hope you found this helpful and got you prepared to visit the beautiful country. If you have been to the Vatican and got to explore all the sights I would love to know what was your favourite.

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